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    The Meaning of Yoga

University of Roehampton Research Project on the work of Phiroz Mehta

From the Editor

Dr. Karen O’Brien-Kop was a recipient of the Phiroz Mehta Memorial Scholarship at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, in 2013–2014. The scholarship enabled her to complete her MA in Traditions of Yoga and Meditation and subsequently go on to gain a PhD in Religions and Philosophies, specialising in early Hinduism and Buddhism.

Karen is now lecturer in Asian Religions and Ethics at the University of Roehampton, teaching on the BA in Philosophy, Religion and Ethics and the MA in Theology and Religious Studies. She has recently been awarded funding by the Southlands Methodist Trust to undertake research on the work and impact of Phiroz Mehta. The project is entitled ‘Phiroz Mehta: A Social History of an Indian Philosopher in South London, 1970s–1980s, and his Impact on the Development of Yoga and Meditation in Britain’.

The project will examine the publications of Phiroz Mehta and seek to assess how his teachings impacted upon public knowledge and discourses about yoga and meditation, as well as Indian philosophy and religion, during the 1970s and 1980s. Karen hopes to interview some individuals who were present at Phiroz’s talks or retreats — or who have read his books — and to understand how they have responded to the ideas he discussed and taught.

Karen also hopes to view some of the books from Phiroz’s private collection to consider the scholarly marginalia that he wrote in his books, in which philosophical ideas were also noted or expressed. Do get in touch with Karen at karen.obrien-kop@roehampton.ac.uk if you would like to share your experiences via a chat conducted over the phone, Zoom, or e-mail.

Brief Biography

Dr. Karen O’Brien-Kop is a specialist in the historical study of meditation and yoga traditions within Asian religious traditions and analyses early Hindu and Buddhist meditation manuals in Sanskrit. Through her intensive teaching on the MA in Traditions of Yoga and Meditation at SOAS from 2017–2019, and the launch of an academic summer school in 2019, she also became interested in contemporary global meditation and yoga.

From 2018–2020 she served on the committee for the SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies, an academic research and teaching centre focused on public engagement. Through the Centre and online teaching she has shared cutting-edge research with meditation and yoga teachers, trainers, therapists and governing bodies worldwide, offering online academic courses through the Oxford Centre of Hindu Studies, as well as disseminating research through community enterprises such as wisestudies.com and yogacampus.com.

In the American Academy of Religion she is a committee member for the Yoga in Theory and Practice Unit and co-chair of the Indian and Chinese Religions Compared Unit.

She has published peer-reviewed articles in Religions of South Asia and the Journal of Indian Philosophy, and is co-editor of the Routledge Handbook of Yoga and Meditation Studies. She was the co-founder of the Sanskrit Reading Room seminar at SOAS and has a forthcoming monograph entitled Rethinking Classical Yoga and Buddhism (Bloomsbury Academic, 2021).


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